Printing Camera Case

3D printing merges my interests in geeky, digital stuff and “concrete physical work”.  It’s quite exciting for somebody who mainly deals with “ones and zeroes”.  There’s so much to learn though and I need to expand my comfort zone! So when a friend of mine, asked me to print a camera case that he found on Thingiverse, I didn’t hesitate.

I decided to print it using the following:

  • Plastic: ABS
  • Nozzle temperature: 220C
  • Heated Bed temperature: 80C

At the present time, I use the OpenMatter control software.  The slicing engine I used is “MatterSlice”.

Also, note that I use hairspray to increase adherence on the glass plate.

I’m still learning and there have been a few tries here.  It actually took me three tries to obtain a decent print.

First attempt

My first attempt was unsuccessful.  The structure detached itself from the glass plate while printing the base.  I canceled the print while it was in the middle of printing a bird’s nest.  Sorry, no picture.  It was quite ugly though.

Second attempt (using raft)

This was actually a successful print.  With this second attempt, I used a printing raft, which increased the contact area with the glass plate.  The result is acceptable as you can see.

I’ve left the raft at the bottom of the structure to show what it looks like.  It’s very easy to detach a printing raft, you usually just peel it away.  No need for x-actor work.

My problem with the result though is that some of the surfaces are not as clean as I’d want them to.  This is especially true of the camera case proper which has this surface somewhat “droopy” (again, you see the “wires” of plastic at the bottom of the holder).

Third attempt (using raft and support material)

This is the print I kept and gave my friend.   In this case, I used both a raft and asked OpenMatter to use support material.  Here is the result with the support material still in place:

Removing the support material is similar to removing the raft.  It’s quite easy, you generally just need to peel things off.  Following the removal of the raft and the support structure.  I tried an experiment with a cold acetone vapor bath to smooth out the structure.  Here’s the final result.

Conclusion

It was a very interesting exercise.  It took quite a while as the printing of the two parts take about 3 hours total… so 3 tries of 3 hours took me 9 hours of print time.  The acetone bath did smooth things out a little bit but I probably should have left it a little bit longer as the deposited layers still show (but less).

First 3D printing project: QC15 Earpads

The 3D printer works and I’ve actually managed to print a couple of things but no design of mine yet.   So, this weekend, I worked on my own printing project.

I have Bose QuietComfort QC 15 headphones.  I love them, best headphones I’ve ever had.  They’re getting a little bit long in the tooth though.  I’ve had to change the pads and wire a number of times in the last 5 or 6 years.  A month ago, it became necessary to replace the ear pads:

Totally DONE!

Long story short.  I couldn’t get original parts and therefore had to get knockoffs from Amazon.  They are actually quite a bit less expensive but they simply do not fit.  The pads are much smaller than the original ones and can’t hook in the earphones.  I don’t understand why they can sell these as QC15 replacement pads.

I could have used scotch tape or glue to make them fit but this would not be aesthetically pleasing.  Since I have a 3D printer though, why not use that?  How about I print a small base for the pad that would extend the area of the pad so that it fits in the pad receptacle.

I did it this weekend.  It was actually quite simple.  I used OpenScad and created a 3D structure built through the difference of two ovals.  The ovals were measured using a digital caliper.

Here’s the model for it:

//Parameters

mm=1;

outside_dia_long= 88 * mm;

outside_dia_short= 69.3 * mm;

height= 1.4 * mm;

width= 9.2 * mm;
outside_r_long=outside_dia_long / 2;

scale_val = outside_dia_short / outside_dia_long;

inside_r_long=outside_r_long - width;

difference() {

	scale (v=[scale_val,1,1]) cylinder(h = height, r=outside_r_long);

	scale (v=[scale_val,1,1]) cylinder(h = height, r=inside_r_long);

}

Printing it took about 20 minutes (per pad extension) and here’s what it looks like:

So I’m quite happy with the result.  I probably could have done something using a piece of wood and some sawing, cutting and sanding…but the 3D printer allows me to go from a very physical to a more abstract world where I can express things mathematically (at which I am a little better).

Hopefully, this is just a start.  I’ll get more familiar with the technology and print more impressive stuff in the future.  Again though, very very happy about the result.

Building Rostock 3D printer (part 7 – LCD Panel)

The printer assembly is almost complete.  Mechanical pieces are all in and electronics is in.  The last thing to do is to put the LCD panel on the printer and we’ll be (almost on our way).

The LCD panel sits in front of the electronics board.  It allows you to see various information about the status of the system (e.g. Current temperatures (hot end, bed), elevation of the hot end, etc).  It also allows you to have access to some basic functions without having to use a connected computer (e.g. Homing the hot end, changing the elevation of the hot end, marking the Z height, etc).

The LCD panel installation apparatus composed of three components.  There is the LCD panel proper, the flat connector wires and the board adapter.  Installation should be quite easy.

Practically, I advise you to follow the instructions in the manual and mark every piece and connector with an A or B to indicate which connector end should be used where.  The main reason for this is that you may receive one of two potential LCD panels (red or white).  Each one should be the same, but the providers had a different understanding of where the pin 0 should be… Consequently, if you are using the red board, you have to reverse some of the connections.  Having A or B on each of the wires and connectors makes it easier to do.

The installation of the LCD panel was trivial, it took me about 5 minutes.  When I turned the printer on and looked at the display, things were not as expected.  I got two blank rows of data displayed.  This definitively wasn’t expected.

As with software, I first doubt myself… so I checked all the connections, made sure that everything was ok… Not my fault apparently… I then doubted seemecnc’s documentation, so I reversed the connectors, made it match the white pin-out… No success either.  Finally, I started doubting the LCD panel itself.   So I contacted seemecnc to discuss my issue.

I sent them an email on Friday, got an answer Monday morning.  We exchanged emails for a bit, sending pictures back and forth.  Ultimately, it was agreed that either the LCD panel, the wires or the panel adapter were not functioning properly.  Seemecnc sent me new pieces, which I got 3 days later.

I changed the LCD panel only, leaving the original board adapter and wires and success! I now have information displayed on the screen.

Kudos to seemecnc who were courteous, knowledgeable and very helpful in resolving this problem.  Thanks!

Building Rostock 3D printer (Part 6 – Electronics)

Next, the electronics.  The Rostock Max uses an Arduino based board, called RAMBo (I always wonder if the acronym is found before the meaning for it :-).   In any case, the RAMBo board was developed through the RepRap projects.  It’s cheap, stable, got tons of people working on it and is very easy to install.

In the case of the Rostock Max v2, it goes in the base of the printer.  There’s a bit of soldering to be done.  Most of the wires that were driven through the towers end up connected on the board.  There’s a bit of soldering to be done.  If you are handy with a multimeter, lucky you, it might be a good idea to check the connections once more, prior to connecting the whole thing.

Here’s a picture of the board installed.  You can see the stepper motor wires at the bottom.  The stop end wires are the black and white wires in the middle of the board.  Hot end and fans are mainly on the side. 

This part of the assembly took me the most time.  The reason is that I dreaded the idea of connecting something incorrectly or having a short.  Those issues are difficult to debug for a software guy like me.

In any case, assembly went well.  I turned the power on and there was no smoke coming from the board… Small victory!

Building Rostock 3D printer (Part 5  – Installing the extruder)

I found this to be the easiest part of the assembly process.   The extruder is the mechanical device that pushes the filament all the way down to the hot end.   The extruder proper is a simple stepper motor, attached to the top plate of the 3D printer and pushes the filament down a Bowden tube.

Here’s a picture of the extruder before I attached it to the top plate.

From the picture, you can see the motor and the extruder proper attached to the motor.  The filament is inserted at the top and is pushed at the bottom.

Here’s a picture of the extruder and the Bowden tube connected to the hot end. For display purposes, I have reversed the arms of the hot end.

That’s pretty much it for the extruder, quite easy.

Building Rostock 3D printer (Part 4 – Putting the towers in)

Ok, the base is built.  It’s a good start but it still doesn’t look like much of a 3D printer.  The next step consists in assembling the “towers”.  The towers are the metal rods on which the printing arm chariots are installed.  They also are used to carry the electric wires.  Each one of the towers carries part of these wires, there’s a lot of them and they do a lot of stuff:

  • supply power to the hot end
  • supply power to the extruder motor
  • supply power to the two fans used in the hot end assembly
  • carry stop end signal back to the controller
  • carry hot end temperature from the hot end to the controller

The towers are named X, Y, and Z.  Here’s what they look like once installed:

As to the chariots, version 4 of the Rostock Max V2 makes them look very very good using a transparent casing with blue rollers…

Things are starting to take shape!!!

Building Rostock 3D Printer (Part 3 – Assembling the base)

I did the prep work of both the heating plate and the heating element last week.  This week, I’ll do the initial assembly of the printer’s base.  On the Rostock model, the base contains the power supply, the motors, a cooling fan, and the power switch.  It also houses the computer but this won’t be dealt with for a little while longer.

The base is made out of melamine boards that need to be removed from the cut-out sheets.  There’s quite a bit of satisfaction in seeing the thing take shape.  Here’s what the base looks like once the boards are installed.  Note that at this time, the construction is a little bit flimsy, as nothing is glued in and the top board is not installed yet.

The Rostock kit contains four stepper motors.  Three of these are used to control the extruder (the last one is responsible for pushing the filament down…  More on this in a future post).   The three motors used here each require a casing and a gear to be glued on.  The casing is constructed out of some other melamine components.  Note that I initially installed that gear the wrong way… Thankfully, somebody made me realize this and the problem was easily corrected).  Here’s a picture of the three motors.

After this step, it’s back to the base assembly where the power supply and the stepper motors now need to be screwed in.  This brings some more robustness to the overall structure.   Note that there is still quite a bit of space left in the base, which is going to be filled up when we finally put the electronics in there.  Here is what the printer looks like after this part of the installation.

(Note that on this picture, the gears are still installed the wrong way).

The last step consists in closing off the base by putting the top melamine board.  Now, this sounds easy but it took a fair bit of work to correctly align everything.   In the end though, here’s what the whole thing looks like: 

Very happy with the result!  It’s solid and the wiring is decent.

Building Rostock 3D printer (part 2 – prep work)

After taking a cursory look at the instruction manual, I got the impression that for me, the assembly problems would be in the initial prep work.  More on this in a few paragraphs…

Prep work consists in assembling the hot end, heating plate and power supply.

First, the hot end assembly.  Technically, it could have been done later but since it needs a drying time (24 hours), it should be dealt with first.

Assembly consists in inserting a couple of resistors in specially made pockets and cover them with RTV paste.  It also involves gluing a thermistor on this element using the same RTV paste.

The RTV paste is a heat conductor and it ensures the best transfer of the resistor’s heat to the heating element.   You want to make sure that there are no air bubbles in the paste… It should be paste through and through so that there is the least amount of heat dissipation as possible.  Not sure what the best way is for this.  The way I did it was to put a lot of paste in,  I also spun the resistors when I put them in… My hope is that this will break any air bubble formation… might be wrong on this.  (I’m looking in getting a thermometer to verify if I did a good job with this)

You can see on the following picture the two resistors (the leads) on the edges of the hot end.  The thermistor is glued in the middle.

This is where things get a little bit tougher… It involves soldering… I’m a software guy… 😦   That being said, there’s nothing quite complex here.  Once again, there’s a thermistor to glue in the middle of the plate.  There’s a resistor and a led too.  The only thing that was a little bit more difficult was the plate’s connector themselves.  The heating plate is quite good a dissipating heat so “tinning” it was a little bit more difficult.  On a  recommendation from a colleague, I preheated the plate a little bit (put it in the oven at low heat)…  It seems to have helped but I’m unsure if I would recommend doing this.  In any case, after this step, the heating looked as follows:

The power supply assembly was quite easy.  I think that SeeMeCNC was previously using an ATX power supply.  You had to cut a few wires from it.  The new power supply is quite nice.  It has a back panel that’s easy to wire in… and no connectors to remove.   The power supply is low profile and seems sturdy enough.  Quite happy with it.

Building Rostock 3D printer (part 1 – first thoughts)

I took my first step in building my 3D printer last week.  I am far from being a hardware guy, this is a personal challenge… it’s pushing me out of my comfort zone, which is a good thing…

Reminder to myself:  I’m going to take my time building this.  I’ll follow the instructions and don’t rush things…

So opening the box, I get this:

Four things can be seen here (from top to bottom and left to right):

  • Laser cut melamine sheets (skeleton for the printer)
  • Power supply box
  • Electronics parts (Rambo controller, etc)
  • Other parts (screws, bearings, etc).

I got everything out of the boxes, inventoried the components and put them in containers.  Everything seems to be there.  It’s a good way to start.

Note that there are a number of things you need to get prior to starting the assembly.  Amongst these, you need Kapton tape and RTV paste, both of which were quite hard to find in my neck of the woods.  These are not sold at my local “Home Depot”.  I was lucky enough to have a work colleague who had both of these.

The instructions provided by SeeMeCNC are quite good. The instruction manual (139 pages) is quite detailed and has a number of helpful links to checkpoint videos that allow you to ensure that you are not screwing things up.  They basically take you by the hand and guide you through the process.

Let’s start building!

Building Rostock 3D printer (part 0 – off of bucket list!)

I’ve had this dream for about 3 years now.  I want a 3D printer!  Whenever my wife asks me “What do you want it for?”  I keep giving answers like:  “Ah, you’ll see…” or “It’s a secret…”.  The matter of fact though is that I don’t know really know what I want it for.  I do have a few ideas, but nothing concrete… and certainly not something that justifies spending that much money.  Here’s the thing though,  my dad bought an Apple IIe when I was a kid and I’m pretty sure he didn’t know what he was going to do with it either.  Ultimately, he found many reasons to use it, games, business, and even software development.  I’m pretty sure that he told my mom that this would be “good for the kids”.  Not sure he truly believed it but ultimately it did foster my interest in computers.

So why buy one now? I had put some conditions on me buying it.  The printer bought should:

  • Be of decent quality;
  • Be open source;
  • Cost less than $1000
  • Preferably be kit based

(The last condition I decided upon because I really want to understand the guts of the system.  A kit is the easiest way to truly “grok” how something works… it also decreases the overall price and therefore should allow for greater component quality)

In any case, those conditions were finally met with the Rostock Max V2 model.  It was voted by Make magazine as the best quality price 3D printer out there.  It is totally built from open source parts and on top of this can come either pre-assembled or as a kit.  The kit version of the system is quoted at $999.

So there you go.  Now, the building starts…

Here’s what it looks like now: